“Black and White or White and Black?”

For a new Creative platform and project called Human Creativity, I was interviewed about my Black and White Works, my studies abroad and why “I make what I make”. I explained that in fact much of these series, are a personal expressions about femininity, self-confidence, sexuality and racial discrimination in the realm of feminism.

Here is an extract from the interview:

“We women are taught to “draw within the lines”. From a young age we are told to be soft, careful (read: “prepare your work and make a sketch first”) and prudent (read: not too sexual). I also noticed as a western woman we are so stuck in exclusive beauty standards on how women should look and what we value as the ideal (bond, blue eyes, slim?). Women of other cultures showed me this can be different. To have lived and studied abroad, made me discover the world from different perspectives; that it is OK to be less nuanced and to be open about feminist issues, racism and how colour changes our identity or world-view. I started expressing this in the ‘Black and White Works’ where I draw women with white on black and black on white. I put everything in one line and “one go” on paper, unapologetically and without doubt (“I am here”) – no sketching beforehand. They are all powerful women of different shapes, naked, that reclaim their body and sexuality. Like the lines, the women are there not apologising for it, without being careful – on a background that is both black and white.” – Tessel.

Thanks @HumanCreativity! I think these kind of platforms are a great initiative to keep the discussion behind today’s art going and to give young artists an alternative stage for their work.

If you are interested, please follow my Instagram for the latest updates and posts on the Black and White works that I am creating these summer months.

” Like the lines, the women are there not apologising for it, without being careful – on a background that is both black and white.” – Tessel
(Woman of Black and White – White and Black series) 2019©.
Working in little cafés around Rotterdam this summer, researching and writing for my thesis – and now and then making the time to make some art for the Black and White series.

© Tessel van der Putte

Work by Night

“By Night”

Sometimes we have an image in our head for a long time – one that needs to get out, one that waits until the right moment to hit the paper (or wood in this case). This purple and blue acrylic work, which was made on thin wood, is one of such.

For a long time, I was looking forward to making a work that symbolised the night, or those dreamy afternoons – using dark colours and abstract forms of intimacy, dreams and a sense of “being at ease”. The work also owns its name to the time-frame it was made in. The wooden acrylic work was create din one afternoon and night, while being in the garden of my familie house (filled with purple flowers and lavender). Summer night in the Netherlands pose good opportunities for drawing and painting outside.

“The work owns its name to the time it was painted in the afternoon and night, in my familie garden filled with purple flowers and lavender (2019)”.

The process of ‘By Night’ in the garden, 2019.
By Night (©Tessel van der Putte)

First Canvas of 2019

“The Machine”

The beating machine of the body, always moving and working until the day we die. In all cultures and across time, the heart stood symbol of the most intense sensations of all our emotions. It keeps working, sometimes mechanically, through though times and hardships, like heartbreaks or loss. It is our mechanism for intuition and gut-feeling as well, and lids up when feeling happy or in love.

This canvas is an ode to the organ of our body, hence also the signature on the back that says “deus ex machina”. This reffers to how we can always find the power and the sacred from within, to have a final say in how we are determining our life.

As part of the Organ Series, the heart could not be missed. The painting is slightly smaller than the canvas of the lungs, yet heavier and more solid.

Tessel on the photo with the new canvas
‘The Machine’ Heart of the Organ Series © 2019
‘The Machine’ Heart of the Organ Series © 2019


To be like water

My newest work created in the summer of 2018, is a canvas on feminism, water, gender and sexuality. Read here my explanation on the symbolism behind the work.

I was inspired by the strength, resilience and also softness & healing aspects of water. Life really is like a river and the mind’s lifetime journey its currents… Deeper currents, surface currents… Ideas change over time and go through different landscapes, transforming itself into sometimes slow, sometimes fast waters. The water always finds a way. Be inspired by water and make your own river as transparent, alive and movable as possible. In the end, moving forward and the river flow is all that matters – and what it comes across or nurtures on the way. As all rivers finally end up in the same ocean anyways.

Explanation “I Am Like Water”

Water and feminine power are central themes in this painting, which is created in contrasting, abstracted forms. The colors are inspired by water – a natural force that can be strong and deadly, but also offers healing, is soft and enables life. Water symbolises the feminine power of fertility, mobility, the possibility of transformation and the beauty of clarity. In the painting, the colors of water also symbolise the balance between the ‘masculine’ (strength, sharp forms, muscle mass, stability), and the ‘feminine’ (sensual round forms, transformation movement, focus and wisdom).

Water is also important for the green world around us, plants, flowers, trees – and can take all forms, for every situation. Water shapes itself for moving forward, is flexible and can transform itself into space and in shape (ice, water air). This is a focus that the work also attempts to bring forward. It is aspired by the female spirit: the blue colors are depicted as the rediscovery of balance, a mechanism for dealing with difficult situations, relationships and the re-occuring fight with our own thoughts.

In addition, the work also hints to a ‘liquid overflow’ of the masculine and the female physical ideal image and wants to penetrate stereotypes about the body, about self-identification, public expectation and the ‘feminine ideal’. In other words, this work is also an ode to the powerful and eternal woman who gives life, with nature and water as a great example and source of inspiration for her well-being.

“Through this canvas, I would like you invite you and explore a bit more about yourself.”

© 2018 Tessel van der Putte


Homo Duplex: explanation and future requests for work

This painting has the theme ‘love’ and is painted in contrasting, abstracted forms.
The colours are inspired by the warm and colourful nature of Africa, painted in request for a couple with a residency in Uganda.


What makes a person’s life so special is our ability not only to stand as an individual, but even more so, the ability to form something together. The theory of Homo Duplex actually comes from scientist Durkheim, who in his theory separated humans from animals. The Homo Duplex is the special characteristic of people, where they may feel that they belong to a greater purpose or ‘something’, than only themselves.

The goal is sacred and the goal is also ‘earthly’. A larger goal may be a belief, an ideology, a similar view of the world, values and norms – but perhaps it is the most applicable to love. Homo Duplex in this painting symbolises warmth, life in the moment and with passion for everything that makes us happy; transcending together in something more beautiful and stronger than just us alone. In this painting the Homo Duplex means ‘unification’.

The canvas was painted in request and tailor-made. Currently I will be working on a smaller canvas for the organ series, a white and red new heart. I welcome any interests or requests for art; please feel free to send me a message!

© 2018 Tessel van der Putte


A series inspired by the body

The body is beautiful, not only from the outside. The organs that keep us going, also have a profound, natural beauty in them, they work hard for us without even consciously knowing they do the whole day and night through. It goes without mention that organs also hold symbolism for our mental and emotional well-being. Being intrigued by what is “inside of us” I started a series on organs and anatomy, expressed in colourful and cubist or abstracted shapes. If you have any suggestions of organs or anatomy structures to paint, feel free to drop your idea with me!

The heart is one of the recently painted organs I made, which I called ‘The machine’ (seen its context and function towards emotions, love and trauma healing). Too many people have made or seen their hearts turn into ‘machines’ – something hard and edgy, working automatically and constantly beating for it’s purpose. Yet I find there lies a dramatic beauty in its vulnerability, its cruciality and its softer parts. Hearts bleed throughout our lives – it is inevitable to their function in our bodies – and also in their function of loving, ‘opening up’ to others (‘opening the heart’) and of showing kindness, compassion and forgiveness. There are two paintings of the heart, one more in the style of cubism, the other as part of the same series of the Lungs.

© 2018 Tessel van der Putte

© 2019 Tessel van der Putte


Costa Rica

Beginning of this year, 2018, I moved to Costa Rica to pursue my masters in International Law and Human Rights, at the UN Mandated University for Peace.

After I graduated in Liberal Arts and Sciences: Global Challenges in The Hague, I worked for two years in Amsterdam as first Communications director and later as the Policy Director of the Jimmy Nelson Foundation. Yet studying at the UN University for Peace had always been a dream of me: “the child” of the United Nations, a place where students from all around the world would come together in shared passions, interests and goals. Now having moved here, it does really feel like the inspiring environment I thought it to be. What is more, is that people around me are incredible creative and ambitious, inciting me to work more on my art, even here during my studies in Costa Rica.

Work and research done before:

At the end of my high school years, I wrote a book on Tibetan culture and politics, for which I did a one year research, several interviews with Tibetan refugees in the Netherlands, Chinese writers and artists (like Ma Jian) and institutions working with Tibetan spiritual and political officials.

During my student years at the Honours University college of Leiden in the Hague, I worked on topics of indigenous politics and cultural genocide, ending up doing extensive research on indigenous cultural connection to land, and the importance of cultural identity in policy making in “property” or land right.

Currently I am studying International Law and Human Rights. Indigenous knowledge and heritage are still are still topics I would like to explore more within this field, yet I am also becoming increasingly more intrigued to explore the new challenges around environmental refugees and statehood of small island nations.


Minimalist art and colourless series, on hard paper

The black and white series are hard black paper series, as well as hard white paper series, of artistic impressions of female and male bodies. Themes portrayed in these series are about the self, solitude and togetherness. The works are inevitably about the duality of our minds and our relations. The series also hint towards challenging our perception of identity and terminology of ‘black’ and of ‘white’. In some, minimalist kind of way, the works carry a deeper layer that would like to challenge the viewer on the way we look at one and other. Many things we see, perceive, judge about another are often merely a reflection of ourselves. Becoming aware of that, enables us to break through stereotyping and falling into patters, of creating an image of ‘the other’ in either a black or white light. After all, we are just lines and shapes constructed by the same pen: the fact we see white or black is depended on the light that shines on it.

Several works have been sold or donated, yet many of the black and white works are currently part of the archives. They come in black or white frames.

© 2018 Tessel van der Putte


From the Ardèche to Jimmy Nelson’s Office

The stones I paint, come from riversides in France. Behind the making of each stone, there is an internal mantra, a music that accompanies the colour and shapes on the stone. The stones symbolise the path to the river stream of thought we all have, carrying the creativity and inspiration of life. Some of the river stones are mani stones. this idea derives from Bon-Buddhist traditions in the Himalayas, where mantras are drawn or carved into stones, then piled up in front of holy places and temples.


“The stones bring a zen environment into our working culture.” (Jimmy Nelson)


Many of the river stones were bought by photographer Jimmy Nelson in 2017, for his employees in the office, and to create a more ‘zen’ environment. The way I see this kind of art, is an engagement between nature and human creativity: taking a bit of nature within our homes and putting a bit of our inner inspirations, thoughts and creativity, outside.


“I hope these stones bring focus, creativity and positive energy into homes and working spaces. It is art, but it is also emotionally and spiritually functional. It is like music.” (Tessel van der Putte)


The Lungs

The lungs are part of an ongoing ‘Organ series’, of which among others also the Heart was made. The colour and organ attempt to leave a certain feeling or impression with the viewer, that tackles challenges of the human mind – problems we sometimes seem to feel in our physical body (like the lungs).

The lungs (or as I sometimes like to call this work, ‘Wings’) was made in the spring of 2016, in The Hague. The canvas was part of an exhibition about mental well-being and health at Leiden University College in The Hague.

The lungs are not only of vital importance to the oxygen circulation in our body, but the organ is also important for the mental well-being of human beings. The lungs hold symbolisms about space, freedom and how stress can affect the body. It is not without reason practices like meditation or yoga focus on the breath and controlling this, to obtain a clear mind. The lungs are also a form of expression, of relaxation and our breathing is used as a cleansing system of thoughts (such as breathing is used in mostly Eastern and Buddhist mediation techniques).

The importance of peace, space and freedom is created when we get enough oxygen, and take time and ‘space’ for ourselves. The other way around, we experience anxiety and lack of air, when our thoughts are under pressure and we experience stress. That is why the lungs are essential for both the physical body and our mental and emotional well-being: breathing represents life, energy and a health balance between mind and body.

So what do the colours mean in this case? In most of my works, colour holds a lot of symbolism that is either aligned with the colours of chakras or with colours that hold a certain emotion to me personally. In this case, I used fresh, cold colours that represent space for me, as well as air and calmness. I attempted to represent breathing and literally ‘getting air’ when seeing the painting, by using strong contrasts of light, airy colours with dark, strong indigo.

© 2018 Tessel van der Putte